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Sadler wins first NASCAR pole

March 14, 2003 at 5:52 PM   |   Comments

DARLINGTON, S.C., March 14 (UPI) -- Elliott Sadler won the pole Friday for Sunday's Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 when he pushed his Ford Taurus to a lap at 170.147 miles per hour around the 1.366-mile Darlington Raceway oval.

It was the first NASCAR pole for the young driver, who considers himself an "old school" driver.

Unlike Daytona and Talladega, where the car determines the pole winner more than the driver, Darlington Raceway is a driver's race track. That means the driver can be the deciding factor at a track that was carved out of a South Carolina peanut field by Harold Brasington and opened for business with the first Southern 500 in 1950.

The track got its egg-shaped design in order to preserve a minnow pond.

There is a lot of history at Darlington Raceway and now Sadler is a part of that history.

"I think that's one of the things that has made me so happy about today is that this is not like winning a pole at Talladega, where the car and the motor and the body is so important," Sadler said.

"To be able to get a pole at a place like Darlington makes me feel good. This is a very prestigious race track to all the race car drivers. This is a cornerstone of NASCAR Winston Cup racing, so to try to win a race here or lose a race, it means a lot to your race team."

Sadler is in his first season for the Robert Yates Racing team and is Dale Jarrett's teammate.

Ryan Newman was the second fastest qualifier in a Ford with a lap at 169.374 mph. Newman won the pole last week at Atlanta Motor Speedway and was attempting to score his ninth Winston Cup pole in a little over a season.

"I think we've got the goods as a team to do what it takes to win the pole at all these race tracks," Newman said. "The only exception would be Daytona. When you've got the goods to be able to get the pole, you're disappointed when you don't get it because that's why we're here."

Jerry Nadeau, in his first season for MB2 Motorsports, was third fastest in a Pontiac with a lap at 169.170 mph.

"The last few weeks we've been fighting a pretty loose car," Nadeau said. "This week we just totally changed the whole concept of the car. Even in practice I was fighting loose, so we did something right before qualifying."

Jimmy Spencer was fourth in a Dodge at 169.088 mph with four-time series points champion Jeff Gordon rounding out the top five in a Chevrolet with a lap at 169.071 mph.

All 43 cars that attempted to qualify made the field, another testament to a poor economy having an effect on Winston Cup racing.

Ricky Rudd, Jeff Burton, Kyle Petty, Brett Bodine, Joe Nemechek, Tony Raines and Larry Foyt all had to take provisional starting positions to make the field.

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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